Which Would You Choose: Symptom Management or Total Healing?

I've had my fair struggles with mental health--I've been diagnosed at different points with PTSD, ADHD, Anxiety and depression. I think there is probably something off with my brain chemistry, since I've been sort of anxious since my earliest childhood memories, but I know it was compounded by sexual assault I experienced as a pre-teen, and the death of my sister when I was 18.

By the end of my 18th year of life, I had all but given up on any belief in God, or any belief in a purpose for me, or any reason to live at all. None of it made sense to me. The only thing that really kept me from following through on suicide was the fact that I saw how badly affected my family was by my sister passing away from cancer, and I couldn't in clean conscience put them through that a second time.

I went into therapy, and I started something called dialectical behavioral therapy. It's a highly effective method of therapy--it's known to reduce suicidality by 48%--and is very highly acclaimed--and the more I read the Bible, the more I realize that many parallels between what I learned in DBT and Christianity/what the Bible says.

To the unfamiliar, DBT is essentially a method to teach people emotional regulation skills that they are lacking. It was a therapy system that is meant to target the most difficult to reach patients--the ones who are chronically suicidal, those struggling with addictions, and so on.

What Marsha Linehan, the founder of this technique discovered, is that many of these difficult to reach patients were raised in an environment that was profoundly invalidating (as someone whose family refused to acknowledge the assault I experienced as a teen or take any action against my assailant, this hit extra hard), and so if there was any hope of them being reached, the therapist needed to create an environment of loving-kindness and somewhat unconditional acceptance in order to gain their trust (obviously, the concept of unconditional love and accepting people where they are (while still encouraging them to model positive behaviors) is very biblical.

This allows the therapist to be more of an ally than an adversary, someone who can accept and validate the patients feelings at any given time, while still reminding them that their behaviors are maladaptive--a type of stable, secure "tough love" that I really benefitted from.

When the therapist points out your maladaptive coping behavior, they guide you to different skills that you can utilize to navigate your emotions in a more healthy way, which are perfectly exemplified in the Bible such as:

Contributing to the world around you (Luke 6:38)

Practice gratitude (Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Think about more positive thoughts (Philippians 4:8)

Find purpose or meaning in what you are feeling (Romans 8:28)

Meditate or pray (Philippians 4:6)

Be honest about the situation (Proverbs 10:9)

Radical Acceptance / Surrendering Control -- choosing to accept the reality situation you find yourself in, as opposed to denying where you're at and trying to control it (James 4:15)

Willingness -- be willing to do what is effective; not willful against it (Isaiah 1:19)

I only linked one Bible verse per DBT coping mechanism, but there are many more I could point to as well.

For many years, I did DBT as an atheist and it proved to be very effective at helping me regulate my emotions, be more even-keeled and level headed, but even though many would have considered me "healed" I felt like there was something missing. I felt like I was managing my symptoms, not healed of my illnesses.

Reading the points DBT makes with their corresponding bible verses makes me realize why. If you read each of those verses, you realize that all of those skills DBT teaches work best when put into practice with a relationship with the Lord.

Willingness to do hard things, radically accepting difficult situations that you may find yourself in, being grateful in difficult times--all of these things are easier when you put them in the context of believing in a loving God who has a greater plan for you and your life. In fact, these things that took years and years of heartache to engrain into my brain, just made sense once I accepted Christ in my life and choose to follow Him.

It made me realize, without God, I could never hope for complete restoration--just symptom management.

Luckily, I keep my Bible by me at all times, and I know that in Him, I am healed of all of my suffering.

God doesn't promise us that we won't walk through difficult times, but He does promise that we will be okay through the most difficult times. With Him by my side, I can truly say that I have walked through fire and not been burned.

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